5 Recipes for Real-Deal, Slow-Cooked American Barbecue

Use your grill’s smoker box or a stand-alone outdoor smoker to make Baked Chicken Barbecue, BBQ Pork Loin, Barbecued Country Spareribs, and more.

May 27, 2010

True barbecue is slow-cooked, with meat flavored by a dry rub or tenderizing sauce.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Sure, sometimes we refer to meat that we’ve grilled as “barbecued.” But true barbecue—tender, slow-cooked meat—is a whole 'nother animal. Though the U.S. boasts four different major barbecue regions (Carolina, Kansas City, Memphis, and Texas), all four involve low- and slow-cooked meats that are cooked over wood smoke for flavor and tenderness. Each region has its own barbecue recipes and uses its own signature style of meat and sauce to create different mouthwatering results. For example, Kansas City barbecue recipes are best known for hickory-smoked meat and a medium-spicy tomato-based sauce; the Carolinas specialize in slow-cooked pork and vinegar- and pepper-based sauces; and Texas is known for beef brisket and tangy, tomato-based sauces with the added kick of chile and cumin. Memphis-style barbecue recipes are defined by wet ribs basted with a mild, sweet sauce; dry ribs that have been rubbed with spices; and pulled pork sandwiches topped with slaw. In most cases, sauces are generally used after the meat is removed from the heat.


True barbecue is smoked—that is, cooked indirectly in the presence of smoking wood chips. Though smoking is done much more slowly than grilling, you can use your (covered) grill to do the job. If your grill has a built-in smoker box, fill the box with wood chips and light the burner on high heat until you see smoke, then lower the heat for cooking. If your grill doesn’t have a smoker box, make your own by wrapping water-soaked wood chips in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Poke some holes in the top, and place the pouch under the grill’s rack over a burner. Preheat on high until you see smoke. Or cook meat in a smoker, an outdoor cooker made especially for smoking foods. The temperature in the smoker should be maintained at 250 to 300°F for safety. Keep two thermometers on hand—one for inside the smoker, and a meat thermometer to gauge the internal temperature of the meat. The meat thermometer is key, as thoroughly cooked meat from a smoker can still look pink due to the way smoke interacts with meat. So not only does knowing the food's actual temperature protect you from foodborne illness, it also keeps you from overcooking.

Try rubbing the meat with a blend of spices, herbs, and seasonings several hours before cooking. This gives it a base flavor, helps tenderize the meat, and helps the meat form a crisp crust that will hold in moisture. Customize your rub to your tastes; common rub ingredients include salt, paprika, chili powder, garlic and onion powders, black and red peppers, and sugar. Another way to keep meat moist and flavorful is to mop it with a thin sauce at regular intervals during the cooking process. A vinegar-based mopping sauce will tenderize meat. Add seasoning with your choice of spices, and brush the meat three or four times during cooking at evenly timed intervals.

Whether you’re smoking your meat over wood chips or simply slow-cooking it in the oven, these Rodale Recipe Finder barbecue recipes will give you delicious, down-home, tender results.

#1: Basic Barbecue Dry Rub. If this is your first attempt at barbecuing, here’s a classic spice rub, as well as a great recipe for Basic Barbecue Sauce.

#2: Baked Chicken Barbecue. For a chicken option, bake thighs and drumsticks in this sweet 'n' spicy tomato-based sauce.

#3: Oven Pork Barbecue. Baked and chopped pork is topped here with a gussied-up store-bought sauce to save you a little prep time. This BBQ Pork Loin is baked after marinating in a chili sauce mixture.

#4: Barbecued Country Spareribs. These flavorful boneless ribs are cooked to tender perfection in a tangy tomato sauce that will have all your guests licking their fingers long after the meal's over.

#5: Slow-Cooker Barbecue Beef. Here, a top round beef roast is slow-cooked 'til it’s succulent, and shredded before serving.